The world we inhabit is filled with visual images, which are central to the ways we represent, make meaning and communicate in the world around us. In many ways, our culture is an increasingly visual one. Over the course of the last two centuries, Western culture has come to be dominated by visual rather than oral or textual media. For example, television, a visual and sound-based medium, has come to play the central role daily life. As Sturken and Cartwright note:
“Hearing and touching are important means of experience and communication, but our values, opinions, and beliefs have increasingly come to be shaped in powerful ways by the many forms of visual culture that we encounter in our day-to-day lives”. (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, p. 1) This paper analyses the influence of technology has to the global visual culture. Starting from the way people see the visual culture, that it to say ‘human experience’, it goes on to explain the different technological changes.
In addition, some of the most striking features of the visual culture are being looked at, and Diana’s death as a case study. Human experience is increasingly becoming more visual and visualized. Life is lived under video surveillance from cameras in buses and shops, on highways and of ‘course the ATM cash machines. One example of our ‘visual age’ is the abduction of Jamie Bulger from a Liverpool shopping mall. A video surveillance camera impersonally captured the whole scene, providing chilling evidence of the ease with which the crime was both committed and detected.
People felt sad, when they actually saw the video. Yet when Princess Diana died, thousands of people had to see it on the television to believe it. That indicates the power of the ‘visual element’ to people (Mirzoeff, 1999, pp. 1 – 3). On the one hand, this shift towards the visual promotes a fascination with the image, while on the other; it produces an anxiety about the potential power of images. Technological changes have made possible these movements of images throughout the globe at much greater speed.
The images we encounter every day span the social realms of popular culture, advertising, news and information exchange, commerce, criminal justice and art. They are produced and experienced through a variety of media, such as painting, printmaking, photography, film, television/video, computer digital imaging, and virtual reality. One could argue that all of these media are ‘imaging technologies’. Even paintings are produced with the ‘technology’ of paint, brush and canvas.
We live in an increasingly image-saturated society where paintings, photographs, and electronic images depend on one another for their meanings. The technology of images is thus central to our experience of visual culture. However, there are different perceptions of visual culture (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, pp. 1 – 13). Some people see visual culture as simply ‘the history of images’ handled with a semiotic notion of representation. This definition creates a body of material that no person or even department could ever cover the field.
While, for other it represents a means of creating sociology of visual culture that will establish a ‘social theory of visuality’. This second view seems open to the charge that the visual is given an artificial independence from the other senses that has little bearing on real experience. Visual culture is a fluid interpretive structure, centered on understanding the response to visual media of both individuals and groups (Mirzoeff, 1999, pp. 1 – 5). Although visual media have usually been studied independently, there is now a need to explain the postmodern globalization of the visual as everyday life.
The disciplines of cinema, television, and media studies, which were instituted in the 1970s, have helped us to consider how movies, television programs, and media such as the World Wide Web have contributed to changes in culture over the course of this century. Mirzoeff (1999) explains that visual culture is concerned with visual events in which information, meaning, or pleasure is required by the consumer in an interface with visual technology. While visual technology is any form of apparatus designed either to be looked at or to enhance natural vision (Mirzoeff, 1999, pp. 1 – 5).
One of the most striking features of the visual culture is the growing tendency to visualize things that are not in themselves visual. Allied to this intellectual move is the growing technological capacity to make visible things that our eyes could not see unaided, such as the photography. The wiring of the world and the rapid development of wireless communications have lead to a globalization of culture. Combined with the growth of media, this globalization created a synergy in which programming and distribution are held together by single corporate entities, which market globally.
As a result, contradictory tendencies have been encouraged, on one hand towards globally shared visual cultures but also towards the rise of an abundance of local discourses and mixed media cultures (Sturken & Cartwright, 2001, pp. 315 – 316). From the 1950s onwards, communications infrastructure began a rapid and dynamic phase of expansion that saw the proliferation of domestic ICTs such as telephones, radios and televisions and the expansion of media content. In the 1960s the somewhat optimistic term the ‘global village’ was coined in response to ongoing processes of global interconnectivity and interaction.